Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Scars are stories, history written on the body. – Kathryn Harrison - Week 7

It took me a while to write about The Kiss. I’m not going to lie… this story deeply disturbed and saddened me. I was almost hesitant to pick it up after it piqued my interest. The other day I was watching an episode of Oprah where Mackenzie Phillips was the guest. She was talking about her book, High on Arrival, which talks about an incestuous relationship that she had with her father. Kathryn Harrison was a guest on the show, speaking out about the consenual (and sexual) relationship that she had with her father starting at the age of 20.

I’ve never read such a melancholy book. Every page was dripping with sadness, hopelessness, and desperation. I could almost feel Ms. Harrison’s depression and loss of self. That being said, any book that incites that kind of emotion is a literary accomplishment in itself. She has a way of crafting her words to make you not only read what she’s portraying… but to get you to feel it. Almost as if you were experiencing it yourself. I felt anxious and nervous to find out where this incestuous relationship would go next. I was shocked and scared as I read it.

My first question was – How could a relationship between a father and daughter be consensual? Something so wrong… so taboo. Ms. Harrison explains that her father was the master manipulator, fully capable of playing on her insecurities and loneliness. She was raised by her mother and her father was absent for much of her youth. Despite his physical absence his presence still loomed large in her life. Ms. Harrison’s mother remained in love with her father throughout her childhood, despite their separation. Her father is described as charismatic and able to draw people to him easily.

The book was tastefully written, never delving into the “gritty” physical details of the relationship but focusing on the emotional aspects of it. I was struck by how much courage Ms. Harrison has to share this story. Putting a shameful and taboo situation out there and giving others the courage to step out and speak about incest and abuse candidly.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The best mirror is an old friend. George Herbert. - Week 6

Firefly Lane is a book about the ups and downs of female friendships. Tully Hart and Kate Mularkey become friends during the summer of 1974. Both in the 8th grade, Kate comes from an all-American family – dinner at 6pm every night, homework at the kitchen table, and in bed by 10pm. Tully, on the other hand, is raised without any such structure. Abandoned by her drug addicted mother and raised by her grandmother, Tully is raised with little guidance and a lot of self-doubt. Kate runs into her one day at the bus stop and is immediately intrigued. Tully is everything that Kate is not – boisterous, self-confident and outgoing. They immediately hit it off and become fast friends. The story follows Tullyandkate (they literally become a “unit” throughout the turbulent years of their adolescence) through the trials and tribulations of growing up.

There’s a lot of life-lessons crammed into these 500 pages. Female friendships are a complex and amazing thing to behold. We had a great conversation about this at my book club the other night. It is very rare to find women that have that one best friend that they’ve been close to for a long time. Especially in my age group (late 20’s)… at this point many of us have graduated from college, got married, and moved on. The test of a true friendship is whether or not your relationship will weather the storms of life. I am blessed enough to say that I have been friends with my best friend since we were in the 4th grade. This book really spoke to me and made me think of her.

Tully and Kate make it through family issues, careers, starting their own families, jealousy and illness. They are lucky enough to have someone always there (even if it’s a phone call away) to share in all of the “main events” of their lives. I feel that this is something that every woman should have in their life. Everyone woman deserves a shoulder to cry on, lean on… or both.
I was deeply moved by this book. I am always a fan of a book that gets me to think about my own life. I also am a sucker for a book that tugs at my heart. Firefly Lane did both. You won’t be able to put it down. Just a tip: make sure you have some kleenex handy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Although I love the child I used to be, there is a woman who lives inside of me. – Week 5

The other day I happened upon a highly disturbing episode of Oprah. Mackenzie Phillips was on there talking about her “consensual” sexual relationship with her late father, John Phillips of 60’s rock band the Mamas & the Papas. I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of Mackenzie Phillips. My mom was a huge Mamas & Papas fan, so I was curious. I watched the rest of the episode and was pretty shocked at how candid she was in talking about the relationship and drug abuse that she partook in with her father. She was rolling joints for her father at 10. Yeah, really messed up.
At first, I had a hard time reading the book. Her writing is mediocre at best. I found some of her writing corny and hard to follow. It was chock-full of cliches and corny analogies. Ms. Phillips seems to have an over-inflated self image of the relevance of the Mamas and the Papas and her career as well. That being said, I am also 27 years old and obviously am from another generation. Maybe I just don't get it? I remember my mom loving the Mamas and the Papas and I can bust out a mean rendition of "California Dreamin'"... but again, their relevance was before my time. I wonder if I would’ve felt more interested in this book if I’d grown up during that generation – 60’s pot-smokin’, hippie livin’, free-lovin’… and all that.

I found her story to be heartbreaking. Growing up without a strong mother figure in her life, she lived for her father’s acceptance. He was the glamourous and exciting parent. His fame put her in touch with the stars of the day and put her in the limelight. Throughout her life she continued to seek her father's love - through a haze of drugs and partying. She describes him exposing her to drugs, partying, and abuse from the age of 5. Being abandoned at airports and on one occasion, a rented house while he went out on a bender with the Rolling Stones Keith Richards. Through it all, she just wanted a glimmer of attention from her father. Something that sadly, she never got.

I liked how she ended the story by saying that she is by no means completely healed. I have respect for her for being able to use the book as a part of her healing and recovery process. After reading the book, I realize that her relationship with her father was definitely not "consensual." I wonder why they even called it that on Oprah? I see Mackenzie Phillips as a victim and a woman just trying to find her place in the world. I wish her all the luck in the world.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared. – Machiavelli. Week 4.

I first became aware of Daniel Silva’s novels after randomly picking up The Confessor off the discount shelf at Books-A-Million. It was a discarded library book and it sounded interesting… plus it was only $4.

I literally could not put it down. Silva writes books in a genre that usually held no interest for me. I’d describe them as being similar to the Jason Bourne novels. They are spy-thrillers - ripe with espionage, technology, and deception. The stuff that makes for a great movie. Anyways, despite the fact that they aren’t usually what I reach for, after reading The Confessor I was hooked. They are like a non-stop thrill ride. Since then, I’ve read all of Silva’s books and I have yet to be disappointed. The main character is Gabriel Allon, part-time art restorer… part-time Israeli secret service badass. Allon started his career with the Israeli secret service after heading the operation “Wrath of God,” a mission to retaliate against the Black September terrorists who killed the Isreali Olympic team at the 1972 games in Munich.

The Defector picks up where Silva’s last book, Moscow Rules, left off. Allon is thrust deep into the world of Soviet, ex-KGB villains and high-tech crime once again. This time though, the stakes are higher for Allon. It becomes personal.

All in all, I enjoy Silva’s books for what they are. They are definitely action-packed and keep you turning those pages. The only downfall is that they follow a very set formula. I have a hard time remembering which one of the 11 Daniel Silva novels is which…